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Letter 11
Evelina In Continuation Queen Ann Street, April 5, Tuesday Morning
I HAVE a vast deal to say, and shall give all this morning to my pen.
As to my plan of writing every evening the adventures of the day, I find it
impracticable; for the diversions here are so very late, that if I begin my letters
after them, I could not go to bed at all.
We passed a most extraordinary evening. A private ball this was called, so I
expected to have seen about four or five couple; but Lord! my dear Sir, I believe I
saw half the world! Two very large rooms were full of company; in one were
cards for the elderly ladies, and in the other were the dancers. My mamma
Mirvan, for she always calls me her child, said she would sit with Maria and me
till we were provided with partners, and then join the card-players.
The gentlemen, as they passed and repassed, looked as if they thought we were
quite at their disposal, and only waiting for the honour of their commands; and
they sauntered about, in a careless, indolent manner, as if with a view to keep us
in suspense. I don't speak of this in regard to Miss Mirvan and myself only, but to
the ladies in general: and I thought it so provoking, that I determined in my own
mind that, far from humouring such airs, I would rather not dance at all, than with
any one who would seem to think me ready to accept the first partner who would
condescend to take me.
Not long after, a young man, who had for some time looked at us with a kind of
negligent impertinence, advanced on tiptoe towards me; he had a set smile on
his face, and his dress was so foppish, that I really believed he even wished to
be stared at; and yet he was very ugly.
Bowing almost to the ground with a sort of swing, and waving his hand, with the
greatest conceit, after a short and silly pause, he said, "Madam-may I
presume?"-and stopt, offering to take my hand. I drew it back, but could scarce
forbear laughing. "Allow me, Madam," continued he, affectedly breaking off every
half moment, "the honour and happiness-if I am not so unhappy as to address
you too late-to have the happiness and honour-"
Again he would have taken my hand; but bowing my head, I begged to be
excused, and turned to Miss Mirvan to conceal my laughter. He then desired to
know if I had already engaged myself to some more fortunate man? I said No,
and that I believed I should not dance at all. He would keep himself he told me,
disengaged, in hopes I should relent; and then, uttering some ridiculous
speeches of sorrow and disappointment, though his face still wore the same
invariable smile, he retreated.
It so happened, as we have since recollected, that during this little dialogue Mrs.
Mirvan was conversing with the lady of the house. And very soon after, another
gentleman, who seemed about six-and-twenty years old, gaily but not foppishly
dressed, and indeed extremely handsome, with an air of mixed politeness and
gallantry, desired to know if I was engaged, or would honour him with my hand.
So he was pleased to say, though I am sure I know not what honour he could